Supporters of Morocco's Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) pass out campaign leaflets in the Moroccan capital , Rabat on October 5, 2016, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election  on October 7. Fadel Senna / AFP
Supporters of Morocco's Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) pass out campaign leaflets in the Moroccan capital , Rabat on October 5, 2016, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election on OctobeShow more

Morocco's Islamists test gains in parliamentary election



MOHAMMEDIA, MOROCCO // Five years after sweeping to victory in Morocco’s elections, the prime minister’s Justice and Development Party (PJD) is facing a resurgent royal establishment.

Morocco’s second parliamentary election on Friday is testing a constitutional monarchy where an elected government works with limited powers in the shadow of a royal palace uneasy at sharing authority with popular Islamists.

After a campaign coloured by accusations of royal meddling and creeping Islamist extremism, prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s party’s main rival is the Party of Authenticity and Modernity or PAM, which critics portray as palace loyalists seeking to roll back the PJD’s influence.

Mr Benkirane has rallied support playing up the PJD’s economic reforms and its popular anti-corruption stance, hoping to extend the moderate Islamist party gains and dismissing PAM’s claims that he harbours a hidden hardline agenda.

“Some people give you 200, 300 or 500 dirhams for your vote. Don’t sell your vote. Vote for someone who will defend you,” the Islamist leader told supporters at a rally in the working-class industrial town of Mohammedia.

Whereas Tunisia, Libya and Egypt toppled long-standing rulers with uprisings five years ago that ushered Islamist parties into power, Morocco’s king eased tensions with a combination of limited reforms, higher spending and tougher security.

Morocco presents itself as a model for economic stability and gradual reform in a region where violence and instability is more the norm. Morocco’s Islamists have been standard-bearers for coexistence rather than rebellion.

Other groups, especially the Islamist Justice and Spirituality Party and left-wing organisations are more critical of the king and have boycotted elections because the king retains most powers.

But analysts said defeats for Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party and the overthrow of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood may tempt Morocco royalists to push back against PJD where the palace once ceded to Islamists as an escape value for tensions in the past.

“The regime used the PJD in 2011 to stifle the protests,” said Omar Bendorou, constitutional expert in Rabat University. “Now some think the party could be a threat if it maintains its grip on different offices.”

Mr Benkirane’s PJD-led coalition has been fiscally sound, pushing reforms in public finances. It cut the budget deficit, overhauled a cumbersome subsidy system and froze public sector jobs — all moves praised by international lenders.

Under Morocco’s election system, though, no one party can win an outright majority, forcing winners into negotiations to form coalition governments and limiting political influence.

The premier is chosen from the winning party. But the king heads a judiciary council, the security apparatus, and the council of minsters that must approve laws. Some key posts such as the interior ministry are also crown-appointed technocrats.

* Reuters

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Getting there and where to stay

Etihad Airways operates seasonal flights from Abu Dhabi to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport. Services depart the UAE on Wednesdays and Sundays with outbound flights stopping briefly in Rome, return flights are non-stop. Fares start from Dh3,315, flights operate until September 18, 2022. 

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Year started: June 2021
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Based: Riyadh
Sector: health care
Size: 15 employees, $250,000 in revenue
Investment stage: seed
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Why it pays to compare

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Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

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Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

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